Sidney Crosby and Erik Christensen score two goals apiece, and the Penguins beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 Friday night. Pittsburgh is 6-0-1 in its last seven games and pulled within four points of Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey.
“We just come to the rink every day and try to have fun and get better,” Christensen said. “We’re not so much worried about the numbers. Sometimes it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play. We’re focused on just coming to the rink every day and having fun and working hard and getting better.”
Gary Roberts and Michel Ouellet also scored, and Evgeni Malkin and Mark Recchi had two assists apiece for the Penguins, who reached a deal for a new arena on Tuesday to assure their future in Pittsburgh.
“It’s definitely a big team effort and all of us should be happy with the way things are going,” said winger Colby Armstrong, who had an assist. “But we have to keep our nose to the grindstone and keep things going.”
Chris Higgins, Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov scored for Montreal, which remained in 11th place in the East. Michael Ryder had two assists.
Crosby’s 30th goal, 4:28 into the game, was the latest of his highlight-reel scores this season. Crosby took the puck in the neutral zone, stickhandled his way through three Montreal players and flicked a wrist shot past goalie David Aebischer while falling to his left to elude a fourth.
“You just shake your head because you see that all the time from Sid,” Christensen said. “It seems like he’s performing miracles. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walks on water one of these days. Amazing goal … what else can I say? You can’t say anything else, it was ridiculous to watch.”
Christensen made it 2-0 in the final minute of the opening period when he got his 15th of the season by converting a poor clearing attempt by Aebischer.
The Canadiens entered the game with the league’s second-best power play, but were mired in a 1-for-25 slump. That continued through the first period, when Montreal went 0-for-3 with the extra man.
However, the Canadiens snapped out of it with three power-play goals after that.
“Our power play has been good all year, and that gave us a chance to come back in the game tonight,” Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. “We obviously need more five-on-five and tonight that wasn’t the case.”
Higgins pulled the Canadiens within one with a wraparound goal – his 19th – 3:33 into the second. While on the power play, Higgins took the rebound of Ryder’s shot and went around the net.
Souray’s blast from the point tied the score at two when it got through traffic and past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It was Souray’s 24th goal of the season.
Pittsburgh scored twice in a 40-second span early in the third. Christensen’s second of the game – off a pass from Malkin, who was behind the net – made it 3-2 with 16:20 to play in regulation. Roberts scored his 16th at 4:20, poking a rebound of Armstrong’s shot underneath Aebischer.
The Canadiens responded just 40 seconds later when Markov tapped in a perfect pass from Saku Koivu into an open net behind Fleury.
Ouellet restored the Penguins’ two-goal advantage at 13:47 when he deftly handled Malkin’s pass out of mid-air on a three-on-two break.
Crosby added an empty-netter – the first of his career – to give him a league-high 106 points and officially move the Penguins past the Ottawa Senators in the conference standings.
“A lot of guys stepped up tonight: (Christensen), Gary (Roberts), every line was moving out there and came out with some big goals,” Crosby said.
The Canadiens missed an opportunity to move into a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with only 10 games to play.
“At this point it’s still in our hands,” Souray said. “If we win our games, we will still be in a good position. All the points are so valuable, and we knew we were coming in against a good team. I thought the first 40 minutes we were every bit as good as they were. It’s just in the third period there were a couple breakdowns and the puck’s in our net.”
Notes: Montreal RW Alexei Kovalev did not play against his former team, missing his second straight game due to vertigo. … Canadiens C Radek Bonk also did not make the trip to Pittsburgh because of the flu. … LW Sergei Samsonov, Montreal’s third-highest paid player, was a healthy scratch for the third game in a row. … D Alain Nasreddine assisted on Roberts’ goal for his third assist in his past three games. He had one on the season coming into the week.